Bellona: Electric Revolution Must Start on Land

All-electric car ferry (file image)

Published Nov 21, 2017 9:16 AM by The Maritime Executive

At the COP23 climate conference in Bonn last week, Oslo-based environmental NGO Bellona held a forum on electrification of shipping. While most discussions at the summit centered on zero-emissions land transportation, Bellona held a discussion on what it would take to bring the shoreside electric revolution to the seas.

“First, the electric revolution must start on land,” said Bellona’s senior advisor on shipping Jan Kjetil Paulsen. “Our vision for electric infrastructure is combining land-based and sea-based applications and seeing the harbor as an electric hub.” The concept is to extend the shoreside infrastructure for charging electric vehicles, buses and trucks in order to utilize it for shore power and battery charging of ships.

The panelists also called for more regulation in order to bring existing technology into the market and to ensure that the whole industry follows suit. Speakers highlighted the Scandinavian experience with battery-powered vessels and shared best practices from previous efforts.

Battery-powered ferries

The electric revolution in the Norwegian maritime sector started three years ago when the first electric transfer ferry for the Norwegian Roads administration was launched. The electric ferry was an almost immediate success, both as a zero-emissions solution but also with respect to reduced operational costs.

In December 2015 the Norwegian parliament passed a law requiring low- and zero-emission solutions for all national and local ferries, which was followed up with financial support. Now only three years later, more than 60 electric ferries are in planning and construction stages to be put into operation over the coming three decades. The technology and solutions developed for the ferry market have also inspired several other sectors to develop similar solutions.

Best practices from pioneers

Egil Hystad from Wartsila highlighted the newest technological developments for zero emissions shipping, including Wartsila’s vision for carbon-free ocean transport. With growing global energy demand and increasingly stringent environmental legislation to combat climate change, increasing pressure will be placed on the shipping sector’s role to keep up the pace, he said.

Brent Perry, CEO of Plan B Energy Storage, claimed that fully zero-emission transatlantic shipping is just a few years away. He urged that “we must stop thinking batteries, but look at more holistic energy solutions.” The company provides energy solutions to optimize power systems on marine, grid and heavy industrial applications and sees this as “the new oil,” especially in Norway, where financial support and political will enable the development of clean technology.